“Sales of counterfeit goods by Charlie Hebdo attacker Cherif Kouachi helped fund the purchase of weapons,” according to a CNN source. The LA Times reports that Cherif Kouachi began “trafficking in counterfeit clothing and shoes” after his release from jail.
The revelations point to an additional, possible source of revenue behind the terrorist attacks in Paris against Charlie Hebdo’s offices and the Hyper Cacher kosher grocery beyond what has previously been reported. Cherif Kouachi is also said to have received $20,000 from AQAP before leaving Yemen, and fellow terror cell member Amedy Coulibaly purchased several of the weapons used during the attacks drawing from a $7,000 personal loan and possibly by trading in a car. Weapons possessed by the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly had a reported street value of 27,000 euros.
An associate of Cherif Kouachi, Fritz-Joly Joachim, was arrested in Bulgaria earlier this year, and has since been charged with conspiring with Kouachi in terrorism. A Muslim convert from Haiti with French citizenship, Joachim was arrested while trying to cross the border into Turkey for possible follow-on travel into Syria. Joachim told French television that his dealings with Kouachi were strictly business: “We sold clothes together, shoes, it was just a business connection.” The reporter who interviewed him amplified on those comments, telling Radio Bulgaria that the Kouachi-Joachim business was “re-sale of clothes and shoes across Paris suburbs.”
Connecting the dots between all the reports, it is probable that investigators believe that Kouachi and Joachim were selling knockoffs, and that the money Kouachi made from the sales ultimately helped supplement the funding of the Paris attacks. This wouldn’t be the first time that counterfeit clothes in Europe have been exploited by Islamists: two imams were arrested in for their involvement in a multi-million dollar counterfeit clothing operation in Spain in December 2013.
That being said, while investigators pour over the details of Cherif Kouachi’s finances, we shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture of money and training by AQAP in Yemen.